April 13 through 15
I combined photos from several days to explain the way Bob and Doris gather sap and make maple syrup.
I learned that there in no “normal” in the time it takes each batch to cook or gallons of sap it takes to make one gallon of syrup, because it depends on the sap and the weather on the day when it is boiled.
This year their taps were put out during the second week of March.
They use mostly hard maples.
With this style tap there is a hole in the side of the bucket that fits on the tap.
They also use a hose-style tap – mostly double, but they also have several singles.
With this style, the hoses fit into a hole in the lid.
When they are finished setting taps, the woods looks something like this.
This year they put out 385 taps in 308 buckets.
Sap runs best when the nights are in the low 20s and the days in the low 40s.
After the taps are set, they must prepare the cookers – the large one in the center and the small, finish cooker on the left.
Then they periodically go back to the woods to gather sap – sometimes with the help of children or grandchildren.
The two grandchildren in this picture are Loraine and Jaden.
Pouring sap into the portable tank – with the help of Jeremiah, a grandson.
After emptying every bucket, Bob goes back to their place and prepares to transfer sap into the cooker.
The cooker will hold 96 gallons of sap.
Soon the portable tank is tilted to get every bit of liquid.
In this case, it was the last gathering of the season.
There is also a tank on the second floor of the shed for the other two families who bring sap for Bob and Doris to cook or when they have more than 96 gallons.
Their son Jon and his family have 400 taps and a friend Jesse and his family have 600 taps.
This photo (taken from our bedroom window) shows the hoses that come from the second floor of the shop – also part of his storage of wood.
Hot sap running into the cooker from the second floor of the shop – hot because it has gone through a preheater on the chimney.
A view of the cooker from the shop.
Doris starting a fire.
Bob prefers Jack Pine because it burns hot.
The sap is just about to boil.
Doris keeping a check on the progress.
Removing foam that gathers as it boils.
Bob moving the sap from one end to the other to keep an even boil.
He periodically measures the depth of the sap.
A hydrometer will tell Bob when the cooking process is complete.
When he thinks the syrup is almost finished, he drains a bit of hot liquid into this tube…
…then inserts the hydrometer. If it rises to a certain height, it is time to stop the cooking.
It wasn’t quite ready, so back to more boiling, while keeping a close eye on the texture.
He tests it again. This time it is ready.
As the syrup changes in texture and they know the process will soon be finished, they use less and less wood, and when it is finished, all wood and ashes are removed from the stove.
The delightful smelling liquid is ready to be transferred to the finish cooker.
I am ready for pancakes!
Doris usually oversees the draining and straining during this process.
Bob transfers the filled buckets to the finish cooker.
The large cooker is empty.
Washing the cooker.
It is again boiled to perfection.
Bob said there is no exact ratio, but it usually takes about 32 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup.
The next process is filtering.
Before filtering, diatomaceous earth is added.
This forms a complex matrix that traps suspended solids while allowing maple syrup to pass through.
When the filter is turned on, the syrup runs from finish cooker, through a hose, through the filter, through a second hose, to the collection container.
The pressure gauge tells Bob when to change filters.
The final stage is bottling – while still hot so the lids seal.
The lighter syrup is from early in the season and the darker from the end of the season.
This year they bottled a total of 140 gallon – theirs, Jon’s, and Jesse’s.
After watching all the work involved, I have a new appreciation for the price of maple syrup.